Man offers NSA-spotting tour on Facebook; police not amused

An obviously humorous German man goes on Facebook and offers a spy-spotting tour of a U.S. facility. The local police are not amused. Because the local Americans suggested they shouldn't be.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
A scene from Bangert's Facebook page. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

This is the era when the neurotics have taken over from the erotics.

The basic fuel of human congress is paranoia. Danger lurks everywhere. Allegedly.

Perhaps we should therefore smile grimly -- and privately -- at the experience of 28-year-old Daniel Bangert.

Bangert is a German who thought his Facebook page needed a little life and levity. One's Facebook presence is, after all, crucial to one's overall well-being.

So he thought it might be something of a yarn to invite his Facebook friends on a spy-spotting walk around the Dagger Complex in his hometown of Griesheim, near Frankfurt. This is a U.S. military facility where who-knows-what occurs. Or, um, doesn't.

As Der Spiegel daringly retells it, Banger posted that this would be "joint research into the threatened habitat of NSA spies."

Well, this was a nature walk, wasn't it? So he suggested that everyone bring flowers to brighten up the surroundings.

He added: "If we are really lucky, we might actually see a real NSA spy with our own eyes."

You might imagine that everyone would be amused by this obviously sardonic invite. You might also imagine that you should feed your hydrangeas roasted chicken.

Just four days after his posting, Bangert received unexpected visitors. You will be stunned into encrypting your own voice box when I tell you it was the German police.

No, they didn't want to join his walk. They were inquiring about the nature of his intentions.

Bangert claims he finally made these policemen laugh at the sheer absurdity of their cold (war) call.

But who could have put them up to this? Why, Der Spiegel received confirmation that the United States Military Police had quite coincidentally noticed Bangert's Facebook posting and banged on their desks very loudly.

After this police visit, though, all was well. Actually, it wasn't. For Bangert then received another visit from officers of the law. He thought this so ridiculous that he put on a T-shirt with a picture of Edward Snowden and the message: "Team Edward." (The police had called ahead to warn him of the visit.)

He might as well have put on racy undies from Agent Provocateur.

"They wanted to know if I had connections with (anarchist groups) or other violent people," he told Der Spiegel.

Bangert claims that he couldn't make these police officers laugh at all. Indeed, they asked him to get a demonstration permit and not to post any more about this alleged walk online.

One might conceive that, by this stage, Bangert thought he'd stumbled onto the set of the fine German movie "The Lives Of Others."

So he actually registered his "demonstration," even though he says he had absolutely no intention of demonstrating, walking, or doing anything other than joking about spies.

He failed, though, to follow the police's suggestion about not discussing the issue on Facebook. Which meant that the "walk" -- the one he had no intention of making actual -- became a "demonstration" of some 70 people. It is unknown if any spies were spotted.

The local police, naturally, offered Der Spiegel platitudes about this being mere routine procedure.

Bangert perhaps ought to count himself quite fortunate. In the current emotional instability that surrounds humanity and social networks, he might have been tossed in jail for months.

This is what happened to Justin Carter, a teen who also made a seemingly obvious attempt to joke about a massacre on Facebook, only to be incarcerated for four months in Texas. He is still facing 10 years in jail.

I would like to categorically state that there is no truth to the online rumor that the grilling I have organized on my deck tomorrow night will involve not merely dead meat, but alleged espionage agents from Estonia.